Category Archives: Elite Interviews

A tête-à-tête with Mr. Rishi Das , CEO of CareerNet Consulting

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Foresighted, impulsive and eloquent, Rishi Das has a profound insight into the working of today’s fast evolving businesses. He believes in exceeding all expectations. His innate talent, coupled with sharp business acumen, has helped his Group – CareerNet,scale newer heights of success.

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More than that, he is high-spirited and fun-loving and always ready for life’s new challenges. In an interview with CommonFloor.com, Rishi Das, CEO, CareerNet, talks about the ‘other side’ of himself, his interests and hobbies and his family.

1) To start with, can you brief us on your life’s journey so far?

I was born and brought up in Lucknow and moved on to do my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from IIT Roorkee. My childhood is full of memories. Some were good while some were bad but I would classify most of them as good. Just as everyone would aspire, I got a job at Tata Infotech through campus placement where I worked briefly for about a year. But, I was certain that this is not where I belonged.

From as early as Grade 10, I had aspired to become an entrepreneur. And the time had come to realize my dream. In late 1999, along with my brother, I co-founded CareerNet. There has been no stopping since then. My aspiration, over a period of time, became more of a passion for me which can be visible through my work for over two decades now.

2) Which incident, in particular, has changed your perception of life as a whole?

I can’t really recall any one specific incident that has changed my perception of life. Instead, there have been several incidents, be it success or failure, in my journey that have shaped me into what I am today. My entrepreneurial skills were always fetched by the thought that I wanted to pave the way for others rather than going the way where others went. This was a clear thought.

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But things were not smooth initially. During the mid nineties, entrepreneurship in India was considered a taboo. Nevertheless, my desire was intense and my professors at Roorkee were very instrumental in supporting my dream. However, things have changed today. Being an entrepreneur is not only a socially accepted norm but, in a way, it is considered very fashionable. Unlike earlier, it is much easy to get funding today and start companies. If you ask me, a lot of things are destined.

3) How do you ensure a perfect work-life balance in today’s hectic schedule?

Maintaining a perfect work-life balance is not really difficult if you truly want to. After work, I love to spend quality time with my family which includes my parents, my wife and my two children – daughter and son. On a daily routine, I always read books to my children before putting them to bed. I also make it a point to take a short half-hour walk with my wife post dinner. The kids are mostly asleep by this time and it is a good time to share our experiences of the day.

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My wife is also an entrepreneur by profession and hence, we have similar interests. For her also, entrepreneurship over a period of time has become a passion. During weekends, I assist my children with their homework, play various games with them or go out for a drive or dinner with my entire family. The idea is to spend good quality time with them.

4) What are your personal interests and hobbies?

As of today, my biggest interest lies in entrepreneurship. It’s become a passion for me. I enjoy interacting with a lot of entrepreneurs who have recently started their ventures. Lately, I have also picked up reading by choice which includes mostly business and management books.

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Earlier, my reading was limited to periodicals like magazines or journals.But in the last two to three years, ever since my business expanded, I have felt the need to understand various phenomenons happening in several businesses. Moreover, I like travelling to various places in India and abroad and meeting a cross-section of people, understanding their culture and history.

5) How do you usually de-stress or unwind yourself after a long, hectic day at work?

The two most important stress busters for both my body and mind include my work-out sessions in the morning and my reading in the night. I try to follow an hour-long fitness regime in the morning which includes walking on the treadmill, stretching and a little yoga. I try to follow this routine for about 4-5 days in a week. To relax my mind, I try to read at least for an hour at night before sleeping. I think, as you read you get answers to a lot of questions that are going on in your mind. Reading makes you much more mature and helps in solving day-to-day queries.
In fact, I have a fairly large bedroom with a small reading area in the corner. It is here that I mostly spend my time in the house.

6) Which are your favourite holiday destinations within India and abroad?

Goa is my all-time favourite holiday destination in India. We go there every year and stay at the Leela. Often we travel with my brother’s family that also happens to reside in the same apartment as mine – Sobha Jasmine on Outer-Ring Road. We also happen to travel a lot to Coorg and to Nilgiris whenever we get the time or mostly over long weekends.

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Since my children are small I have not travelled extensively to Europe or North America. I have predominantly travelled in Asia-Pacific. Singapore is my favourite destination here and, if at all, I have to settle anywhere outside India this city would be my preferred choice. This is mainly because it provides the cultural value system at par with our Indian values. At the same time it gives the comfort and hygiene required of any developed countries. Moreover, I also like Maldives even though it is not very child-friendly.

7) Besides travelling, what are your other favourite pastimes?

Being a migrant to Bangalore, my social circle is not very large here. Moreover, other than meeting entrepreneurs my friend circle is not very large. I am more or less an introvert on this aspect. I also indulge into various sports activities with my children which includes table tennis, badminton, cycling with kids and basket ball. We often dine out too be it Chinese food or Italian, depending on my kids moods.

8) What features in an apartment/community do you consider to be most important?

I feel, the most important features are the recreational facilities in any complex. These should be there for all age groups – from children to adults like me or even for seniors like my parents. Swimming and Tennis are the two sports that adults also enjoy a lot. While I don’t really go looking for a large club house but certainly the basics should be available. And above all hygiene matters a lot for me.

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Since reading is an essential part of my daily routine I would prefer a good reading area in the house. That’s the reason why in my new villa at Adarsh Palm Retreat, where I will be moving in soon, my bedroom size is fairly large. It also comprises of a small reading area coupled with an area for work, a small library and also a small kitchenette where I can have my green tea especially at night.The future, I feel, lies in integrated townships where one gets everything under one roof be it residential, commercial or even little retail.

9) Are you brand-conscious?
I am not a very brand conscious person as per say. But my wife surely is. I believe in value-for-money brands. I am not an ardent fan of big brands like Louis Vuitton or others and neither do I drive swanky cars. I firmly believe in brands that give me value-for money and the longevity. I carry a simple blackberry mobile rather than some swanky phone.

10) What is your mantra for success?

Humility, passion, perseverance and the willingness to take risks are my four mantras for success. More than the ability to take risk I believe in the willingness to take risk.

The ‘Otherside’ of Subrata Mitra, Partner at Accel Partners India

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Work Smart & Work Hard, Success will follow: Subrata Mitra

Knowledge is indeed wealth. And the journey of Subrata Mitra rightly defines this. His story is that of hard work, sheer grit and determination which is why his name figures in the list of renowned venture capital investors in the world.

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But few know, that Mitra is an exuberant and vivacious person similar to the bustling and colourful metropolis of Kolkata where he spent the first 18 years of his life.

In a tête-à-têtewith Commonfloor.com, Subrata Mitra of Accel Partners elaborately talks about the ‘other side’ of himself, his interests and hobbies and above all his mantra for success.

1) To start with, can you brief us a little about yourself ?

I was born and brought up in Kolkata where I spent the first 18 years of my life. My childhood was full of fun and excitement. Whether it was eating mishti doi or playing cricket or travelling to diverse places, I did it all. My biggest passion since childhood has been driving which I learnt as early as Grade 4. Initially, I bribed our driver to let me learn driving. When my father found out, instead of being angry, he further encouraged me by taking me to remote places (Salt Lake city) where I could hone my skills! I still love driving and going new places continues to be a passion.

Moreover, I cherish the values that I imbibed by virtue of having spent my formative years in the ‘City of Joy.’ After schooling I moved on to do my engineering from IIT-Kanpur followed by a Master’s degree in the US. 

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2) How has your professional journey been so far?

My first job was at IBM’s R&D group. Simultaneously, I even pursued PhD in Computer Science at University of Illinois. Post my Ph.D.,I moved to the Bay area to join IBM, and for the first time got exposed to the concepts of start-ups, angel & VC funding, etc.. By the end of 1999 I launched my own company Firewhite Inc. along with a friend. While I relocated to Bangalore to build the product from India, my friend continued with handling operations in California.

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But, as they say, destiny had its own plans. Life is often not as simple as we may desire it to be.While struggling to build our company, the 9/11 incident occurred which affected our venture in more ways than we could imagine. It became excruciatingly hard for us to go forward and my friend had to move out due to financial reasons. But I decided to be more resilient and managed the exit for the company which was not as lucrative as I had imagined. Going forward, I decided to head the India operations of US-based Tavant Technologies in 2002 where I worked for two years. 

Between 2004 and 2008 I (in conjunction with my current partners) experimented with different models of working with startups, including a high-touch one where we spend lots of time with early-stage companies, and slowing moving to a traditional venture model. In 2008 we decided to join hands with Accel Partners; they had the same vision as us of building early-stage Venture firm, and was a great brand to be associated with. We have enjoyed the latter years as much as we did when we were smaller.

3) Which is that one incident that has changed your perception of life as a whole?

In some strange way, the 9/11 incident has changed my perception of life as a whole. We often think we are in control of our life but it isn’t really true. While we were very earnestly trying to raise money for my first company, the incident gave us a serious jolt.

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What I learnt eventually was that no one is going to hand me success. I must go out and get it myself. That said, it’s also important “be the right place at the right time”. I feel I have had the privilege of being in the US/Bay area, when there was a boom there, and now being back in India, where the ecosystem is starting to get really vibrant here.

4) How do you ensure a perfect work-life balance in today’s hectic work schedule?

I strongly believe in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, during the initial years of my professional journey have toiled for 15-16 hours a day to achieve success.Even today, I am actively thinking about my work/my companies, etc., most of the time that I am awake. However, there’s now a flexibility to not have to be at the office all the time, since I don’t have an operating role any longer. At least I am present in the house and in case my wife wants to chat with me or ask me anything I am available. I think people who have been to start-up early on in life and then moved on to this lifestyle will understand it very well. 

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5) How do you like to spend your weekends or vacations?

Over long weekends or vacations I mostly like to drive down to various places nearby with my family – my wife and 17-year old son. Very early in my life I fell in love with cars. I have driven many sports cars in Germany. Even today I would love to go there and drive those. Porsche is one of my favourites.

Over the years,I have travelled extensively to places within India as well as abroad. Places close to Bangalore such as Chikmangalur, Mysore or nearby Golf resorts are some of my favourite weekend destinations. But I make it a point to drive on my own.

6) Which are your favourite holiday destinations in India and abroad?

 Besides the place I mentioned earlier, my other favourite holiday destinations include Kerala and Northern India particularly Darjeeling where I would often go hiking or camping during my childhood days. Being an avid traveller, I have toured the US extensively, particularly the Bay area, where I would often go for long drives with my friends and family. Europe is another preferred holiday destination where I have been multiple times.

Traveling has immense power to change one’s perspective on life. One gets an opportunity to experience diverse cultures and interact with different ethnicities. Additionally, one gets exposed to a wide array of perspectives that change and enlarge his view of life and the world.

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7) How do you usually de-stress or unwind after a long hectic day at work?

One thing I learnt about myself after 9/11 incident is that I don’t get stressed. But if you may ask, after work my favourite place to unwind at home is my little sofa in front of the TV. I like to spend at least an hour a day watching some news or a sports channel.

8) Other than traveling, what are your other hobbies and interests?

I also have keen interest in various sports like hiking, tennis and cricket. My passion for photography has often taken me to places close to nature be it the mountains in India or the Bay area in the US.

Basically, I am an enthusiastic and cheerful person. I have hordes of friends from all spheres with whom also I love to spend time during my wee hours. I often act as a catalyst for my friends who otherwise seldom meet each other.

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9) Which are your most favourite sports that you often play in your apartment complex during free time?

I enjoy playing tennis at my apartment complex in Mantri Elegance on Bannerghata Road. I make sure I play at least 3-4 times a week. I even play with my son during free time. Other than tennis, I like swimming as well. Unfortunately, my apartment complex has a large pool which mostly remains vacant owing to the Bangalore weather. There would rather be a large heated swimming pool in the complex than a regular one.

10) What is your mantra for Success?

For me, there is no short-cut to success. Work smart and work hard and success will automatically follow. Moreover, building a good team at work is also equally important. People work hard because they believe in a cause and your company has to become that cause. If you inculcate that kind of behaviour or culture then you will definitely see success. 

I strongly believe that challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes it meaningful.